Texans 19, Browns 16
HOUSTON (AP)—The Houston Texans were far from great, and they were barely good enough to get their first win.
But they got it—an ugly, 19-16 affair over the struggling Cleveland Browns. All that mattered Sunday was this: The Texans are winless no more.
Houston didn’t find the end zone after its first possession, but managed break a seven-game losing streak with kicking and special teams.
Kris Brown hit a 40-yard field goal, his fourth of the day, with 2:45 remaining, to give Houston (1-6) the come-from-behind win. The kick was set up by a 63-yard kickoff return by rookie Jerome Mathis.
“It’s kind of nice to get that ‘W,”’ Carr said. “Even though that was one of the ugliest games I’ve ever played in.”
Houston’s losing streak spanned back to a 22-14 loss to Cleveland in last season’s finale. The loss is the third straight for the Browns (2-5).
Mathis, who had an 89-yard touchdown on a kickoff return last week, continued to give the Texans excellent field position. He averaged 35.4 yards on five returns against the Browns.
“Jerome has really been giving us a spark,” said Texans coach Dom Capers. “When you are fighting through what we are fighting through, you are looking to try to make plays any way you can.”
Houston’s defense got two second-half fumbles that Brown converted into two field goals to erase a 13-10 halftime deficit and put the Texans up 16-13 early in the fourth.
But Brown was wide right on a 38-yarder on Houston’s next possession and Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson tied the game at 16 with a 37-yard field goal.
Brown was thankful he got a chance to redeem himself. He dedicated the win to the family of a 9-year-old boy he had befriended named Nicholas Florio who died of a brain tumor this weekend.
“For us to be able to give this family and this little boy the game we gave them today, even though he’s not here, I knew he was with us,” Brown said.
Carr rebounded from a 48-yard passing performance last week to throw for 138 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice on Sunday—the fewest times he’s been put on the turf this season.
Houston got inside the 25-yard line four times in the second half but had to settle for field goals each time. Carr often had ample time to throw but still struggled to get the ball to his receivers.
“With the field position we got, we should’ve scored 30 or 40 points,” Carr said. “I was upset in the fourth quarter that we didn’t have a better lead … our guys doing just enough to get the ‘W,’ I’m glad we got the ‘W.’ We’ll worry about the rest of that on Wednesday.”
He did throw a perfect ball to Mathis, who fought through double-coverage to haul in the 34-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game. It was the first touchdown reception of the rookie’s career and the first time Houston had led all season.
After going three-and-out on their first series, the Browns tied the game when a wide open Aaron Shea leaned down to get a low 8-yard pass from Trent Dilfer in the end zone. It the first time in three games Dilfer had thrown a touchdown pass and the Browns’ first offensive touchdown in as many games.
Dilfer was better than he was in a three interception, 73-yard outing last week, but his fumble on a sack by Gary Walker led to a third quarter field goal by the Texans. Dilfer finished 12-of-25 for 185 yards.
“I would like for our guys to catch the ball,” said Browns coach Romeo Crennel. “I would like for us not to fumble. I would like for us to make the plays we need to make, but we didn’t do any of that.”
Antonio Bryant had four receptions for 98 yards but he was called out of bounds on a would-be touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Facing third-and-9 with under a minute to go, Dilfer was sacked by Walker again to ensure the Texans’ win.
It was Walker’s first game back since he sprained his shoulder in Week 2 and the sacks were his first since 2002.
The 0-6 start was Houston’s worst in history and the losing streak was the longest.
“None of us ever envisioned we’d go 0-6,” said Texans owner Bob McNair. “That’s a long, dismal journey none of us liked. To turn that around is important to us.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but at least this is a start.”
Notes:@ The National League champion Houston Astros were honored by the Texans in a pregame ceremony. McNair presented a commemorative football to Astros owner Drayton McLane while several Astros, including Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio and Jason Lane, looked on. … The Browns didn’t commit a penalty until they were called for a false start with two minutes left.